A CHALLENGE FOR ARTISTS: ASK QUESTIONS
CREATE A DEMAND FOR EARTH CONSCIOUS MATERIALS!
To purchase paper from a major art supplier recently I asked "Do you supply chlorine-free recycled art papers or other Earth-friendly products?" The hip young sales clerk raised an eyebrow. "You're kidding!" she said. "You can't expect to find environmental products in an art store!"
Her response reflects the status of what most artists use today; art materials rank high in toxicity, like many household, garden, beauty, etc., products.
WHAT ARE EARTH CONSCIOUS ART MATERIALS?
Truly Earth conscious art materials can be used without causing harm to any living systems. Using artists materials as an examples, most art materials fail this standard. How can we find ones that meet it?
Some materials are clearly marked as potential hazards. Other products state that they are "non-toxic." Still others, like mat boards, foam core, plexiglass, papers, canvas, etc., are unmarked but may carry hidden or unknown environmental costs. Can we relax, then, and use these items without concern?
"NON-TOXIC" - WHAT DOES THAT REALLY MEAN?
Although real improvements have been made in many products for art and otherwise, the label of "non-toxic" still leaves many unanswered questions. Read your product labels carefully. For example, a typical label on a "non-toxic" product states: "Based upon toxicological review, there are no acute or known chronic health hazards with anticipated use of this product.
(Most chemicals are not fully tested for chronic toxicity.)
"Always protect yourself against potentially unknown chronic hazards of this and other chemical products by keeping them out of your body." The labels of household and beauty products, as another example, are even less helpful.
Other "non-toxic" labels highlight that the concerns about hazards are focused on human health, as in this label: "...this product is certified by a medical expert to contain no material in sufficient quantities to be toxic or injurious to humans(!)" So, what about the effects of so-called "non-toxic" artists materials on all the other life forms sharing this earth with us?
William McDonough reports on the toxicity of man-made chemicals: "of the approximately eighty-thousand defined chemical and technical mixes that are produced and used by industries today (each of which has five or more by-products), only about three thousand so far have been studied for their effects on living systems."
DOES THE MANUFACTURE, DISPERSAL, USE AND DISPOSAL OF PRODUCTS CAUSE HARM TO THE EARTH? How should we respond to the known and unknown hazards and toxins of materials? We can begin by asking questions:
HOW CAN WE GREATLY REDUCE OR ELIMINATE UNKNOWN TOXIC HAZARDS IN THE ART WORLD? (WHEN SPECIFIC TOXINS HAVE BEEN BANNED, LESS TOXIC OR NON-TOXIC SUBSTITUTES HAVE BEEN DEVELOPED.)
HOW CAN WE DEMAND DEVELOPMENT OF EARTH CONSCIOUS PRODUCTS?
HOW DO WE TAKE RESPONSIBILITY NOT JUST FOR STUDIO SAFETY, BUT ALSO FOR THE HEALTH AND WELL BEING OF OTHERS AND OF ALL LIFE FORMS? (AFTER ALL, VENTING SYSTEMS BLOW OUR LIABILITIES INTO THE OUTER WORLD. AND WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN GARDEN "PEST CONTROLS" SAY "KEEP THE PRODUCT OUT OF THE WATER SYSTEM"? WHAT IF IT RAINS?)
Many people think that artists are few in number and their use of some questionable materials doesn't matter much. Perhaps we should reconsider! According to one survey, over 10% of the American public consider themselves artists (amateur or professional). And each of us counts! Are we providing a good example of environmentally responsible art making? What can we do to change?
As we ask more questions and rethink the ways that we make art, we might arrive at the same goal that we have for other areas of our lives: CAUSE NO HARM TO THE EARTH! MAKE ONLY ECOLOGICALLY SUSTAINABLE, EARTH-CONSCIOUS PRODUCTS! DEMAND ENVIRONMENTALLY SENSITIVE MATERIALS AT OUR STORES!
FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS, HUMANS HAVE SATISFIED THE NEED TO CREATE, TO MAKE SPECIAL OBJECTS, WITHOUT DAMAGING THE EARTH. WE OWE IT TO OURSELVES, TO FUTURE GENERATIONS, AND TO ALL THE WONDERFUL LIFE FORMS SHARING THE PLANET WITH US TO DO THE SAME.
if you've read this far, perhaps you'd be interested in workshops on this subject